Temples, castles and sukiyaki

Monday 17th April 2017 – Kyoto

Today the rain was forecast to discover where Wayne was hiding so equipped with waterproofs we started the morning by heading to Kiyomizu-dera. The bus dropped us near and we walked through the lanes stopping for coffee, then calling in at the Yasaka Koshin-do temple.

Here spherical talismans made of colorful cloth, representing monkeys with their hands and feet tied to the back are hung in garlands. They symbolise self control, and the local custom says that in order to get a wish fulfilled, one must give up another desire. The old desire is symbolically put inside the kukurizaru monkey, by writing on the fabric and help requested to give up this desire.

On to the Kiyomizu-dera, which sits at the top of an old restored shopping street, and is really popular (read crowded!) temple but a great visit as there is lots to see. Our first stop was the Hondo (main hall) with a huge veranda that juts out on the hillside giving great views of the tree covered hill below and of a red pagoda in the distance, the second stop was the Jishu-Jinga, where visitors wanting to find love have to close their eyes and walk from one stone to another, if they got helped along the way then the rule is that they will need help to find love.

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Below the Hondo, is a small waterfall where the water is split into 3 channels each with a different benefit of health, wealth and love… pretty sure they all come from the same source but that’s the power of belief for you. Outside the temple there was a particularly pretty cherry tree in full blossom where people who had dressed in kimonos posed for photos. It’s all very photogenic in amongst the chaos.

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For lunch we went across the bridge to Omen Nippon, which is famous for its Udon noodle soup, and ordered a side of tempura and a cup of tea. The broth comes in a big bowl, the noodles on a serving plate, and then a big plate of bits is delivered to the table to add to your broth.

There were things like mushrooms, radish, spring onions, lettuce, ginger etc and 4 pots of powdered chilli, pepper, spices etc to jazz up the stew. It was nice, but I am finding the Japanese food a bit bland so used most of the pot of chilli.

By this time the rain had caught up with us so we headed over to Nijo Castle, through the dramatic entrance gate and into the central palace. It was built in 1603 as the official residence of the first Tokugawa shogun, Ieyasu. It’s very ostentatious, with painted walls and ceilings and for security a ‘nightingale’ floor – so should someone get passed the huge stone wall and defended gates, across the gardens and into the building past the guards, the floor as soon as any pressure is applied tinkles. Probably in the dead of night this would alert the guards who where positioned in concealed chambers but with a couple of hundred tourist traipsing through the tinkling was quite loud.

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Next stop as it was fairly wet was the covered Nishiki Market, home to the weird and wonderful of things to eat. It’s a narrow covered lane, lined with open fronted stores that layout their produce into the lane. It gets narrow and crowded but you can pretty much buy everything edible you can think of and a fair few other things that you’d struggle to identify.

We headed out that evening to a restaurant that specialised in Sukiyaki and Shabu Shabu. Basically this is 2 versions of the same thing, one is a boiling water bath where you cook meat and veg before dipping in a sauce and eating and the other is where you boil the sauce and cook the meat and veg directly in it before eating. You’re given huge bowls of veg, mushrooms and noodles then platters of thinly slice beef to cook and we were in such a big group we were able to order both the water bath option and the sauce option. Similar to a meat fondue in France – delicious!

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